JOHN RYDER has been waiting for a big fight. Last year he flew out to Texas, ready to step in at less than week’s notice to box Canelo Álvarez if Billy Joe Saunders had pulled out mid-fight week. A compact super-middleweight he might be but nevertheless he was in discussions to move up to light-heavyweight to take on a high quality belt-holder Dmitry Bivol there. Those opportunities did not come to pass. He was left boxing only once in 2021, a low key bout in Klagenfurt. But now he’s getting what he wants; a fight with a star name and even better for the Briton, America’s Danny Jacobs is coming to his hometown of London. On Saturday (February 12) they box at super-middleweight at Alexandra Palace.

At middleweight Jacobs fought the very best in the world. He gave Gennady Golovkin, in his pomp in 2017, a good fight over 12 rounds. He beat Sergiy Derevyanchenko the following year, a fine victory and went 12 rounds with Canelo Álvarez himself.

He’s hasn’t been as active at 168lbs. For a surreal, or perfectly typical Julio César Chávez Jnr bout, depending on how you look at it, in 2019, Junior came in overweight, Jacobs forced him to quit on his stool and then a near riot broke out. Jacobs though hasn’t boxed since outscoring Gabriel Rosado in 2020.

Ryder, despite his best efforts, only boxed once in 2020 and 2021. But he’s quietly built an impressive resumé at super-middleweight. Losing to Rocky Fielding a few years ago is well behind him. He blitzed Patrick Nielsen, knocked out Jamie Cox, dispatched the previously unbeaten Andrey Sirotkin and needed just three rounds to hammer Bilal Akkawy to set up a 2019 shot at Callum Smith.

Ryder acquitted himself well against a towering super-middleweight in Smith and left Liverpool feeling hard done by. That performance certainly suggests Ryder can trouble Jacobs. A southpaw, Islington’s “Gorilla” can close in well on taller fighters, keep busy with combinations and land hard shots. Canelo showed his class against Jacobs, weaving round his jab with mazy head movement. But Jacobs’ jabbing is good, he moves well on his feet and if he can keep Ryder on the end of his long punches, he will create all sorts of problems for the Briton. The American can win this on points but Ryder is a very live underdog in this fight.

“I’m super excited to be returning to the ring,” Jacobs said. “It has always been a dream of mine to fight in London as a professional, and I’m looking forward to fighting in front of a great crowd. I’m putting my best foot forward.”

“This is the fight I need to really bring the best out in me,” said Ryder. “Jacobs is a great fighter but he has had his time and now it’s my time to shine. My dreams are at stake and destiny awaits. It’s time to get right back to where I need to be.”

On the undercard, Ryder’s gym mate Felix Cash returns to action against Magomed Madiev, a Russian unbeaten in 17 fights. Last year Cash dominated Denzel Bentley to win the British middleweight title, stamping his authority quickly on their bout and stopping the Londoner in just three rounds. Madiev likes to advance behind steady jabs and bomb right hooks after them. But Cash looks to be the more well-rounded fighter and should eventually be able to take control and overcome the Russian. However, expect a lively encounter.

Ellie Scotney has only had three pro bouts so far but she has the ability to move quickly. She’s matched with Jorgelina Guanini on this bill. The Argentine is 9-3-2 and was hopelessly out of her depth when she fought Rachel Ball in 2020. Scotney won’t tower over Guanini as Ball does, but is too skillful. The young Catford fighter is scheduled for 10 two-minute rounds here but could force the first stoppage of her pro career here.

Romford heavyweight Johnny Fisher hasn’t been short of knockouts. He’s finished all four of his pro bouts so far inside the distance. Just 22, he is already a big ticket seller and will bring an army of fans to watch him continue that streak against Spanish journeyman Gabriel Enguema.

Cyrus Pattinson, another top prospect out of the North East, was meant to fight Evgenii Vazem on the Derek Chisora-Joseph Parker undercard in December. But the Russian tested positive for Covid after the weigh-in, leaving Pattinson waiting for the fight he was denied. Cyrus can get back to business now as he continues to adapt his high-octane amateur style into an approach that’s a touch more measured, destructive and suited for the pro sport.

Former Youth Olympic gold medallist Hopey Price is scheduled for a run out on the show ahead of boxing in his Leeds hometown on the Josh Warrington-Kiko Martínez bill on March 26.

Matchroom promote and DAZN will televise.

The Verdict An excellent fight to start Matchroom’s 2022 run in the UK.